South Africa to import maize to avert starvation

As the drought ravages, South Africa is expected to fork out at least 2.2 billion rand (about 155 million US dollars) for maize imports, Grain SA said on Tuesday.


South Africa will need to import 934,000 metric tons of yellow maize from countries such as Argentina and Ukraine in the year through to the end of March 2016, Grain SA CEO Jannie de Villiers told Xinhua.

South Africa farmers are currently losing livestock because of the drought which will exert more pressure on the government to import maize and wheat into the country, South Africa’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana said.

He cited figures from Statistics South Africa as saying that the sector contracted by 17 percent quarter on quarter this year largely due to the drought, the most severe in 20 years.

According to weather forecasts, significant rainfall may only be expected in March 2016, Zokwana said.
“Consumers are to be hard hit in their purses as high food prices on the shelves rise. The Reserve Bank has also highlighted rising food prices as an upside risk to overall inflation,” Thabi Nkosi, an AgriSA economist, said.

South Africa imported more than 35 000 tons of maize mostly from Mexico and Brazil last month alone, according to Nkosi.

The continuing fluctuations of the rand had made the imports even more expensive, Nkosi said.

The rand was weaker in mid-day trade on Tuesday after the dollar strengthened to its best level against the euro since April. The rand was trading at R14.3448 to the dollar from a previous close of R14.3156.

The rand has been on a free fall in recent weeks, making imports both unattractive and expensive.

The country’s stubborn food inflation has also been on the rise.

The South Africa government has set aside 352.6 million rand for the initial drought mitigation projects and a further 96.62 million rand for additional assistance.

Consumers are expected to feel the effects of drought in three to four months when the production chains were hard hit, Wandile Sihlobo, a Grain SA economist, said.

The effects of drought can take at least a few months to affect consumers, he said.

“It may take about three or four months for maize price increases to go down to (actual products such as) maize meal and milk,” he added.

South Africa imports around 70 percent fertilizer and about 98 percent agro-chemicals, Sihlobo said.

Meanwhile, Sihlobo said, “If forecasted rainfalls in the next 2-weeks do materialize, it might lead to some improvements in white maize production prospects.”

The drought had led some farmers to abandon agriculture. “Some famers have decide to quit farming (all together),” Koos van der Ryst, Chairman of the Red Meat Producers, said. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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